Not a year after Scream reinvigorated the horror and slasher scene at the end of the 1990s, Wishmaster came along and…well, it kind of treaded the same ground 90s horror had been walking all along, with just some spit shine that makes it feel a bit more like it came after Scream.
After making this film, director Robert Kurtzman wouldn’t get behind the camera again for another decade, when he returned with Buried Alive and The Rage. Kind of surprising, because Wishmaster is one of the stronger derivative horror films that came out in the 1990s.
For starters, it’s loaded with horror faces: Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Kenny O’Hara, Reggie Bannister, Ted Raimi. It’s also loaded with some late 90s horror staples: cheesy humor and horror references, cheesy jump scares, and cheesy late 90s alternative music. Plus, Andrew Divoff rocks as the Wishmaster.
That’s the good stuff. The downside—which isn’t that much of a downside if you lived through 90s horror—is that this is basically just like all the other supernatural monster slashers of the 90s. Hellraiser III comes to mind immediately. Wishmaster is a supernatural creature known as a Djinn, which—oh fuck it. He’s a fricking genie, okay? He grants wishes.
After an uber cool gory opening scene in ancient times, Wishmaster is unleashed from a gem at an auction house by a chick who works there in modern times. Wishmaster starts out all slimy, morphs into this demon creature by granting wishes to people (that always ends in them dying) and before long, he morphs into Andrew Divoff. Divoff’s goal for the whole movie is to find the auction worker chick who released him.
To do so, he goes around very loosely interpreting anything anyone says to him as a wish that involves a torturous death. Honestly, the tongue-in-cheek of it is kind of absurd.
When he finally tracks down the main girl, he returns to his much cooler demon form (no offense, Divoff), takes her to a hellish dimension, and slaughters a party full of people (so Hellraiser III) before the main girl finally figures out a way to use his wish-granting against him.
WISHMASTER 2: EVIL NEVER DIES (1999)
This time, the directing is taken over by a seasoned horror director—Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark 1982, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2, The Hidden). Yet, this sequel is virtually the same film.
During an art gallery robbery, the gem is once again broken open and Wishmaster is unleashed in all his slimy glory. A female thief gets away, and Wishmaster turns into Andrew Divoff to hunt her down while killing anyone who gets in his way, like a cop who tells him to “Freeze!,” which Wishmaster of course takes as a wish to be frozen. Gag. Bad gag. Funny thing is, whenever it’s time for him to specifically ask the main girl in each movie what her wish is, when she quite clearly tells him her wish, he always double checks that he heard her right. “Are you sure that’s what you want?” Fucking screenwriters.
There aren’t any stunt horror cameos in the sequel, but I like it better simply because of the amped up kills. For instance, while Wishmaster is in prison (yes, Wishmaster goes to prison), one inmate makes the mistake of wishing he could just “walk right through those prison bars.” I drooled almost as much as Wishmaster when those words were spoken, and my eyebrows even did the evil V thing his do.
Another inmate says he wishes his lawyer would go fuck himself. No surprise at the scene that follows when you consider this movie is by the director of Elm Street 2.
Plus, the orgy massacre is better in this one—takes place at a casino this time. And of course, Wishmaster takes the main girl to hell before she uses his wish granting against him. Like I said, pretty much the same movie.
WISHMASTER 3: BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL (2001)
For the last two films, Chris Angel takes over directing duties. He was responsible for The Fear: Halloween Night, sequel to the 1995 film The Fear. The good news is, it has that late 90s/early 2000s teen horror college campus vibe and stars A.J. Cook (Tru Calling, Wer, Ripper, Final Destination 2) as the main girl, adorable Tobias Mehler (Disturbing Behavior, Carrie TV remake) as her boyfriend, and Emmanuelle Vaugier (The Fear: Halloween Night, Ripper, Saw II, House of the Dead 2, Unearthed). Bad news is, Andrew Divoff doesn’t return as Wishmaster.
The other bad news is – this movie is terrible. It feels like a direct-to-video sequel to a dying franchise. AJ opens up a box her college professor receives in the mail, and inside is the red gem. As usual, when Wishmaster is released, she’s already gone. Sadly, Wishmaster doesn’t start out like a nasty slime creature this time. He just sort of floats in as Wishmaster. And he basically looks like some average Joe did a pretty good job of dressing as Wishmaster for a Halloween party.
The first wish he grants is for the college professor, and it’s filled with sex, nudity, and gore. Hey, desperate franchise times call for desperate measures.
He borrows the professor’s face so he can go around campus incognito searching for the girl who released him. Now if he could have disguised himself as Andrew Divoff, I would have been really impressed.
It gets so bad. The college professor chases AJ and her friends around campus. He teaches a class like a real professional college professor…even though he’s actually a fucking ancient supernatural Djinn. He kills random people in inventive ways with little regard for that whole wish concept. He can regenerate. And then AJ uses a wish to summon an angel to fight Wishmaster.
The Angel possesses her boyfriend, a sword materializes in his hand, and there’s a good old fashioned battle…until they take it onto a moving car. If you think it can’t get any worse, there’s still another movie….
WISHMASTER 4: THE PROPHECY FULFILLED (2002)
According to imdb, these two films were shot back-to-back, a week apart, but they must have used most of their budget—and talent—on part 3 and tossed the scraps to this disaster, which looks and feels like a cheesy direct-to-video film from 1991.
Intro scene: a couple moves into a house and has sex.
Three years later.
Stop right there. Some producer read a script that starts with “Couple having sex” and then cuts to “Three years later” and said, “AWESOME WRITING! Film that script!”?
SO…3 years later, the guy is in a wheelchair, they’re not having sex, their lawyer is trying to win them some money in court, and tries to score some action with the chick right after giving her a box with the red gem in it. She leaps back from his advance and the gem falls out of the box and breaks. She leaves, Wishmaster appears, lawyer’s face becomes Wishmaster’s new mask, etc.
At least they tried something different here. The lawyer—I mean, Wishmaster—is trying to win the chick’s love. And she’s kind of going for it. The lawsuit is settled and her guy gets back his ability to walk overnight, and yet she starts hanging out with the lawyer on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Wishmaster does stupid shit like: makes a gun appear out of thin air so a guy can shoot himself (even though the guy didn’t make a wish to shoot himself); gets everyone in a restaurant to kiss a waitress (men and women); grants a woman’s wish for “killer sex,” which is apparently nothing more than floating up against a wall and gasping (some seriously disappointing killer sex); and grants a bartender at a strip club his wish to be the pimple on a pole dancer’s ass (completely implied…another disappointing scene).
Wishmaster talks to this little triumvirate of Djinn that warn him of some hunter coming for him…which turns out to be delicious, sword-wielding Victor Webster of numerous cheesy sci-fi shows of the 90s.
Which is exactly what this movie starts to feel like, right down to the romantic conflict/battle at the end. Now that’s how you annihilate a franchise.